My Wooden Tooth Has Taught Me Important Lessons

Rena Newman avatar

by Rena Newman |

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Hello again! Given the title, you may be wondering if I really have a tooth crafted out of wood like George Washington. (Actually, I hear it’s a myth that he had wooden teeth.) And what could this wooden tooth possibly have taught me? Please read on to find out.

Some years ago, I went to a dentist’s office in late summer. After hesitantly sitting down in a cold, slippery, peacock blue chair next to its assigned dental engine, I told my dentist that every time I saw him, he took a tooth from me, so I’d prefer that we didn’t see each other anymore. He responded with a half-smile.

My top left molar violently screamed, “Take me now!”

“Ow!” I yelled in my head, and then dramatically exhaled in defeat. Darn Sjögren’s syndrome and the pesky cavities that result from it. I knew what was coming — or did I?

Wondering. (Courtesy of Derrian Childress)

The first highly unsettling, panicky moment of the day happened when the dentist dropped the syringe on my tongue, causing me to swallow excess frosty numbing juice. I thought, “Am I going to die?” My heart began to pound vigorously while fiery darts shot from the back of my head and traveled all the way down to my toes.

After the procedure, I took my prescribed antibiotics and pain medication, but then my tongue began to swell and turn chalky white, as usual. I’m not sure why this often happens when I take these medications, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s related to Sjögren’s. I also started coughing from the intense burning sensation in my esophagus.

I suffer from anxiety and sensory hypersensitivity, so this was starting to become too much for me. My body tensed up, and I started rocking as part of a verse of a song I wrote played on repeat in my head:

“Moving on, oh wait, it’s back
I think there’s something wrong with me
I feel like suddenly I’m being attacked
Something’s just not right
Oh my God
What is happening?
My head’s spinning
Everything is turning black.”

When the Novocain finally wore off, I noticed that the tooth adjacent to the one I’d just had removed was benumbed. Days passed, and my tooth was still frozen! I started singing in my head, “Let it go, let it go.”

During my follow-up, a different dentist confirmed that there was permanent damage in the tooth, and said, “Oh yeah, you have a ‘wooden’ tooth!”

I realized I’d have to find a way to cope with this odd, annoying feeling that would never let up to prevent myself from having a complete meltdown.

I immediately transitioned to logical thinking, positive self-talk, and healthy, hopeful visualizations, which are my go-to survival techniques. Once the nervousness abated, I tried something new: focusing on feeling connected to my discomfort. Now there’s a thought. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “For after all, the best thing one can do/ When it is raining, is to let it rain.”

“Let the storm rage on.”

This everlasting wooden tooth has taught me to accept what I cannot change. It also unexpectedly helped me prepare for the inevitable progression of my Sjögren’s. When new pain, discomfort, and strange sensations arrived and didn’t let up, I was ready.

If like me, you struggle with health issues and anxiety, remember that you are not weak, you matter, and you’re not alone.


Note: Sjögren’s Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sjögren’s Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Sjögren’s syndrome.


Joe Pierce avatar

Joe Pierce

good post. Thanks, I agree!

Jul Smith avatar

Jul Smith

I am mostly still in denial. My dentist removed right and left bottom teeth and bridges, he suggested that I will be checked for Sjogrens desease. After much research and clicking all the Sjogrens Syndrome book- symptoms questions I have concluded, yes I very likely have this syndrome.
But since there is no cure, no Specialists here in Phoenix Az., where I live, what is a stogie to do. Live in denial sounds good.

Erica avatar


Hi Rena, I also have Sjogrens which is affecting my gums more than my teeth. I would suggest asking your doctor about Nystatin when you take antibiotics. That chalky white tongue is most likely thrush (Candida) which always makes my Sjogrens worse. Or a good probiotic to restore the good bacteria wiped out by the antibiotics. Also, there is a homeopathic remedy called Hypericum which may help with the nerve damage. Best of luck!

Abirra Nartel avatar

Abirra Nartel

My kid had Sjogren's syndrome for a long time. Her dentist at suggested she use fluoride toothpaste. Also sugar-free candies. What should I do if she also complains about her hearing being impaired?


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